The Jew And The Carrot

Looking Back — and Forward — to Schav

By Joelle Abramowitz

  • Print
  • Share Share

Photo: Joelle Abramowitz

Sometimes we need to encounter something new to help us unearth a remnant from the past.

“This week, I got sorrel,” I told my mother. Each week I’d recite to my mother what had come in my CSA share and what I ended up doing with my vegetables. The sorrel was notable because somehow, on my third year of being a CSA member, I still had not yet encountered sorrel for myself.

After receiving my box of vegetables, I tasted a small piece of the sorrel. It was as I’d expected, but more: lemony and sour and wonderful. Having only a few ounces of sorrel, I decided to make a sorrel-onion tart. Indeed, the bites with ample sorrel were quite lovely and refreshing.

I related my sorrel adventure to my mother.

“You know,” my mother chimed in, “Bubbe used to make a green soup. I think it was probably with sorrel. I think it’s called schav. You should look it up on the Internet: S-C-H-A-V.”

“OK, mom, I’ll look it up.”

“I never tried it, because it was weird-looking.” Now this was a surprise. Bubbe was my mother’s grandmother, who passed away before I was born. Mostly what I learned of Bubbe related to her culinary prowess involving old world dishes: blintzes, rugelach, cow lung (my mother stopped eating it when she found out what it was), to name a few. Whenever my mother would describe Bubbe’s cooking, she would also express her regret in not having Bubbe’s recipes, that no matter what recipes she finds, they’re not quite the same. But since my mother had never tried the schav, I didn’t even know where to begin.

So I began searching around, as my mother insisted, and started with some trusted sources. First up was The New York Times. In their recipe, sorrel and potatoes, amongst other soup ingredients, are cooked together and then blended into a creamy puree. Next, I made my way to My Jewish Learning and came across a very different concoction. In their recipe, the sorrel leaves and a bundle of its ribs and stems and set to steep in a pot of water. After discarding the rib and stem bundle, beaten eggs are incorporated into the broth. While I understood that both recipes did indeed fit the description of “sorrel soup,” they seemed so different. I wanted to know, which was the authentic version? Would the real schav please stand up?

Knowing all the diversity in Jewish geography and culinary tastes, I shouldn’t have been all that surprised that there was no master schav recipe. I described the two recipes to my mother to see if she could provide any insight into what bubbe’s schav was like despite her never having tasted it.

“I think there was a potato involved.” So that was somewhat helpful, but it still didn’t fully resolve the discrepancies in the recipes I’d found.

Already overwhelmed by the two options I’d discovered, I gave up on Internet-searching for schav, and decided to turn to the resource I should have consulted in the first place: Gil Marks’ Olive Trees and Honey. There, I learned the background on schav in a more digestible (ahem) way. I learned that schav is the Slavic term for sorrel, that it grows wild in Eastern Europe in the spring, that the variation with eggs was an indulgence for the wealthy. Their recipe included elements of each of the two I’d found: sorrel and potatoes are cooked together (and can be pureed, or not) and adding egg yolks at the end is optional.

By the time I’d finished reading, I’d become really excited about schav. But then I grew sad when I remembered that I had already used up my sorrel in my tart that was indeed tasty, but was lacking in cultural significance. I found comfort in reminding myself the small amount of sorrel I’d had would not have been enough for even a quarter of the schav recipe.

So now I wait for an abundance of sorrel to come again. I plan to make the Olive Trees and Honey recipe and add eggs to some of the soup while keeping the rest plain to hold my own personal schav smackdown. I know that it likely won’t taste the same as Bubbe’s. Really, though, there’s no one to tell me whether it does or doesn’t, and I’m not sure whether that makes me feel better or worse. But maybe it doesn’t matter if the schav I make is the same schav that Bubbe made. Maybe what matters is to make the schav and to think of her and honor my mother’s memory of her.

Suffice it to say, I can’t hardly wait to make my first schav.

Joelle is an economist and writes about food and life in Washington, DC.
Photo Credit: Joelle Berman


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: soup recipe, sorrel, schav, Gil Marks, CSA

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.